There are plenty of popular quotes these days about failing in order to succeed; so many, in fact, that Forbes wrote an article about it. I’m sure these were profound at some point, but now can be found on pretty much any Instagram page with quotes for aspiring business people and CEOs.
Perhaps it was just me, but when reading these quotes, I often imagined a person starting a business, intentionally running it into the ground, then starting it all over again with huge success. You have to fail to succeed, right? You might as well get it out of the way yourself, then start something that will last.
As I’ve gotten older and have obtained new wisdom, I learned for myself what ‘failures’ led to my ‘successes’. I will discuss what those are later, but first it is important to define what constitutes ‘failure’ and ‘success’.
Society has it’s own ideas of success: big house, lots of money, prestigious job title, fancy car, and reaching the top of your field, to name a few. As my mindset continues to shift away from societies ideals, I have defined success in my own way: happiness, contentment, peace, a happy home, being useful, and a fulfilling relationship with God; again, to name just a few.
One example of success in my life is this website: JenaeLawson.com. As I’m writing this, I have one dedicated viewer of my website: me. I am making no money from it, no one knows it exists besides my husband, and it currently serves as more-or-less of an online journal for my eyes and no one else’s.
However, I still consider it a huge success. Why? Because this is a vision come to life. At some point, JenaeLawson.com was just an idea I played around with, and one I kept putting off because I was afraid of being judged if I put too much of myself out there.
But now, it exists; it’s real. I can search for Jenaelawson.com and find a website that far surpasses anything I could have ever imagined. So, what is my definition of success? It’s achieving what you set out to do, even if it doesn’t look exactly like what you had planned. Success is what happens when passion, effort, and creativity meet, and the thing you set out to do becomes a tangible reality.
If success is seeing your vision come to life, then failure is the attempts that didn’t work out. An example of failure for me would be the website I started before this one. Prior to the fully formed JenaeLawson.com concept existing in my mind, I simply knew I wanted to make a website where I could put some of the things I had been working on out into the world. However, this idea solely focused on food, and I planned to make a food blog/test kitchen sort of thing.
Why was this website a failure, you ask? It never became what I had envisioned. The main reason was because I had so many more topics to discuss, and having a food blog would mean everything else I was doing was less important. Why should I only put my recipes and kitchen discoveries online, when I have poems, essays, and sewing realizations to document, as well?
The second reason this venture failed was because it wasn’t me. I was trying too hard to be a food blogger, competing with all the websites I see on Pinterest talking about their baking and cooking, offering weekly newsletters, pretty food photos, and e-cookbooks. None of the criteria fit me! I didn’t want to be a photographer, I just wanted write about the food I was making, which was completely different than what these people were doing, anyway. Hence, why it never got off the ground, and is considered a failure.
From failure to success
Even though my first website is now useless, the skills and insights I gained during that venture set the foundation for the website I currently have. To set up the initial website, I had to learn about website creation and development: web hosting, domain name purchasing, and WordPress, among so many other things. Having already done all that, JenaeLawson.com was so much easier to build. Not only that, but I gained more understanding of what was possible, and could fine tune my website how I wanted to, based on what I had tested in the first website.
This website creation story demonstrates how my failure led to my success. In reality, my failure was me just starting in the direction I thought would produce what I wanted, and adapting to what worked and what didn’t in order to see my vision realized. Sometimes, the direction you go simply reaches a dead end, forcing you to redirect and completely start over. However, as a popular, unattributed Pinterest quote says: “This time you’re not starting from scratch, you’re starting from experience.” Whatever ‘failures’ you left behind can teach you how to move forward and eventually lead you to success.
How to fail the right way
Like I said in the beginning, I thought failure before success was a formality, something you could do quickly as a rite of passage then move onto the good stuff. Sadly, that isn’t the case. So, I came up with a few things that help you fail in such a way that those failures guide you to a successful outcome:
Learn from your mistakes
Or, perhaps something more helpful, don’t repeat what didn’t work the first time. Maybe you didn’t necessarily make a mistake, but rather a guess based on the knowledge you had at the time. Now that you’ve seen the outcome, don’t do the same thing over again if it didn’t work the first time.
That’s it. Just start, go for it. Whatever dream you have, it’s best to make steps to get it started and fail than never see anything come of it. Take one small step, then another, then another. If you can’t succeed without failing, you can’t fail without at least trying first! Take action, even if it’s tiny, in the direction you want to go.
Learn from others
This can include your parents, family, colleagues, books, etc., but try to see how others failed so you can avoid repeating their failures, too; if you’re going to fail, you might as well fail in your own way. That’s more exciting, isn’t it? Don’t be a secondhand failure if you don’t have to be.
Perhaps there is no resource available to you, then you’re going to have to wing it (see ‘try’ above). But, if given the chance, get insight from others, so your next step can be one you are confident is in the (mostly) right direction.
Don’t take failure personally
Everyone who has ever succeeded has failed; so, if you also fail, at least you’re amongst good company. Let the failure be a lesson rather than a reason for discouragement. See it, accept it, and move on; dwelling on failure any longer than useful will only hinder your plans for success going forward.
Define failure and success for yourself
Perhaps what society says success is (or what I have said, for that matter) is not the way you would define it for yourself. That’s completely fine. Figure out what will look like a success for you and go for it. Don’t let anyone, including me, tell you what to strive for.
In conclusion, failure and success cannot be separated; in order to succeed, you must fail, and in order to fail, you must try. Do your best, give it your all, and if it doesn’t work out, learn from it and move on. You are the only one that can determine what it is that you are looking for. So start, and you will be on the road to success before you know it.